Café Mersand is an institution in Tel Aviv, mainly due to its loyal customers, some from over fifty years. Old Yekkes (German-speaking Jews) meet here for a coffee party on a daily basis. If you want to feel the real Tel Aviv, then you’re in the right place here.
The crowd is particularly eclectic on Friday mornings. Here one can experience the essence of Tel Aviv: German-speaking Shoah survivors and hipsters, American students and sprightly retirees drinking their “hafuch gadol”, a large milk coffee, after their early morning swim in the sea. The smell of aromatic coffee beans and intellectual snippets of conversation envelop the café in a special ambience.
Viennese cheesecake and Günther Jauch
The legendary café is located at the bustling Ben Yehuda-Frishman junction. A corner table is reserved every morning for a very special group of women. They are over 85, wear eccentric hats, elegant floral dresses and red lipstick. The women speak a mixture of Hebrew and German and continue the European coffee-house culture in Tel Aviv. They all fled from the Nazis in Germany and Austria to Israel. Some came after being liberated from concentration camps.
The girls have one thing in common: they are loyal Günther Jauch fans. When the TV presenter heard about his female fan club, he paid the ladies a spontaneous visit. In the anthology “In Germany a Jewess, a Yekkete in Israel” Chaja Florentin recalls how Günther Jauch appeared at the seaside to honor the regulars’ table: “He is a true gentleman! He is one of the most distinguished men I have ever met.”
Time stands still in Café Mersand
It’s relaxed at Mersand on weekdays. Locals read their morning newspaper, regulars and tourists drink the first coffee of the day. There are breakfast combinations, sandwiches, salads and homemade cakes. A classic is the cheesecake with raisins.
Mersand is named after the Berlin immigrant, Walter Mersand, who founded the café in 1958, based on the European model. Although Tel Aviv is a city with constant construction and renovation, Mersand maintained the trend towards modernization. The café still looks the way it did in its founding year. Simple stools, rickety tables and the same coffee. Mikki, Walter Mersand’s son, ran the establishment in his father’s spirit up until a few years ago. Then he rented it out, with a promise from the new young operator to leave everything as is.
To adapt the Mersand to the zeitgeist, DJ’s set up in the evening. Tel Aviv hipsters meet here for a drink before going to the clubs in the metropolis. But in the morning, the café changes again and the “girls”, as the waiters and regulars lovingly call the Yekkish women, take the helm.
translation by Catherine Bradshaw
Ben Yehuda Street 70 Ecke Frishman
Sunday-Thursday 7:30-24:00, Friday 7:30-18:00, Saturday 10:30-24:00